Local self-funds merger challenge

03. 823NEWS

• Ian Ker

IAN KER is mounting a self-funded legal challenge to the Barnett government’s council mergers.

The former Vincent councillor is hiring John Hammond—a high-profile lawyer and former Cottesloe mayor—to take on the state.

“We’re not simply going to roll over,” Mr Ker says, defiantly.

In recent months the quietly spoken council veteran has emerged as a leader of the campaign to leave Vincent alone. He says the 20-year-old municipality works well as a stand-alone city and there’s no need for it to disappear nor merge with Perth.

The basis of his legal challenge revolves around WA local government minister Tony Simpson’s labelling of most mergers as mere “boundary adjustments” save for the western suburbs group.

“Boundary adjustments” don’t trigger what’s known as the Dadour amendment in the WA local government act, which allows citizens to call a referendum, with the power to veto the proposed merger.

“What I want to see is an appropriate democratic process so the affected communities have a say in their future,” Mr Ker says.

He says the drastic changes proposed—including the disappearance of many municipalities—makes a mockery of the term.

“Clearly changes of the scale that the government is proposing are quite massive, and are even larger in terms of their impact than the sorts of changes than are envisaged in the Dadour provision in the local government act,” says Mr Ker.

He says he’s stepped forward because “nobody else was”.

“I’d been sitting there thinking surely some local government or of coalition of interests will take this on, because it was clear to me that there were process-type deficiencies in what the state government was proposing, but it wasn’t happening.”

He says councils may be reluctant to step up, fearing their replacement with commissioners.

Mr Hammond says the case is on solid ground. They’ll first write to the WA local government advisory board—which will present its plans to the minister for a yea or nay—and then consider court action if the board doesn’t agree to withdraw the minister’s proposals.

While preferring that Vincent stay as it is, Mr Ker says this challenge is about making sure locals determine their city’s future.

Meanwhile Leederville resident and Vincent councillor Matt Buckels is launching a merger challenge in his own way.

Known for getting into online wars on sites like The Worst of Perth and Skyscraper City, he’s launched a new Facebook page Vincent to Perth memes. Several propaganda images feature, including Game of Thrones character Ned Stark warning “Brace yourselves: Stirling is coming,” a stern warning from Grumpy Cat to “don’t split Vincent”, and shiba inu Doge telling Perth “I’m here waiting 4 u only”.

by DAVID BELL

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